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Emancipation as social equality

Subaltern politics in contemporary India

Indrajit Roy

The ethnographies presented in this article point to the ways in which members of oppressed communities imagine emancipation. Instead of analyzing emancipation as stemming from statist precepts of citizenship, I want to direct attention—along with other articles in this special section—to the “arcadian” spaces in which exploited, marginalized, and discriminated populations forge membership in the political community in contentious engagement with both state and society. I draw on ethnographic fieldwork with Musahar landless laborers in the Indian state of Bihar during the winter and spring of 2009–2010, with follow-up visits in September 2013 and July 2014. I focus on their engagement with two organizations, one a leftist political party and the other a cultural organization, to advance my claims. The ethnography reveals that, for the Musahar laborers, ideas of emancipation are anchored in reclamations of social equality rather than a telos of state-centered citizenship.

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“Real, practical emancipation”?

Subaltern politics and insurgent citizenship in contemporary India

Alf Gunvald Nilsen

Th is article explores the articulations of citizenship in subaltern politics in contemporary India. Departing from Karl Marx’s acknowledgment that, despite its limitations, political orders founded on the modern democratic conception of citizenship had propelled “real, practical emancipation,” I argue that citizenship has to be understood as simultaneously enabling and constraining radical political projects and popular social movements. I flesh out this argument through a detailed analysis of Adivasi mobilization in western Madhya Pradesh, India. My analysis shows how the Adivasi Mukti Sangathan, a local social movement in the region, democratized local state-society relations by appropriating basic democratic idioms and turning these against local state personnel and the violent extortion they engaged in. Drawing on James Holston’s work on “insurgent citizenship,” I argue that claims making around such democratic idioms inflected citizenship with new and potentially emancipatory meanings centered on local sovereignty and self-rule. I then detail how this mobilization provoked a substantial coercive backlash from the state and discuss the lessons that can be gleaned from this trajectory in terms of the possibilities and limitations that citizenship offers to progressive popular politics in India today.

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Alterpolitics or alterotopies

A critique of nomadology with reference to West African Fulbe

Riccardo Ciavolella

This article offers a critique of how the anthropology of pastoral nomadic societies participates in the debate about alternative forms of political organization and emancipation. In the first part, I retrace the roots of the reciprocal and circular influence between anthropology and critical theory, focusing on Deleuze and Guattari's “nomadology” and their reliance on ethnographies of “primitive” and especially nomadic people. Attracted by the spatial autonomy and immanent forms of resistance of nomads, their work nourished the poststructuralist interpretation of power, which in turn influenced contemporary radical political anthropologists. In the second part, I reintroduce ethnographic evidence on pastoral nomads into the discussion. Relying on recent ethnographic evidence of the crisis of nomadism, especially in West Africa, I argue that we should be more prudent in considering interstitial spaces of freedom and resistances as strategies for structurally changing power and for emancipation.

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Black Solidarity

A Philosophical Defense

Mabogo P. More

How should black people, indeed any other group of people in general, respond when they are grouped together and oppressed on the basis of the contingency of their physical characteristics? Questions of liberation from oppression involve questions about the means to overcome that oppression. Throughout the ages of struggle against racial oppression, for example, collective black identity and solidarity has been one of the favourite responses and rallying call for racial justice and liberation. In South Africa this response has recently emerged through the formation of a number of highly controversial groups such as: The Native Club, The African Forum, and The Forum for Black Journalists. Critics of these formations think that such black solidarity, divisive, irrational, morally objectionable and, above all, racist. This paper defends the emancipatory racial solidarity tradition, examplified by The Native Club and similar constituted organisations, against such serious charges and critiques mounted by contemporary leading thinkers on identity. The tools for such a defense are primarily derived from Jean-Paul Sartre's conception of group formation in his Critique Of Dialectical Reason. I argue that since anti-black racist consciousness always operates at the level of collectives, it is therefore impossible to fight such racism as an individual; that collective black solidarity is a necessary condition for racial emancipation.

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Andrew Buckser

Anthropologists have moved away from using belief as the defining feature of religion, portraying it instead as something whose nature and significance vary among times and cultures. This raises new questions about how specific notions of belief come into being and their connections to social, cultural, and political systems. This article explores these questions in the Jewish community of Copenhagen, focusing on two periods when ideas about belief changed radically: the emancipation period at the opening of the nineteenth century, and the decades after World War II. In each, changes in the ways that Jews conceptualized and appealed to belief reflected changes in the internal social dynamics of Danish Jewry. They also reflected changes in the larger Danish culture and in state political agendas.

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Polycarp Ikuenobe

This article examines Nnamdi Azikiwe’s idea of mental emancipation as the intellectual foundation for his political philosophy. Mental emancipation involves re-educating Africans to adopt scientific, critical, analytic, and logical modes of thinking. Azikiwe argues that development must involve changing Africans’ intellectual attitudes and educational system. He argues that Western education, through perpetuating negative stereotypes and engendering ‘colonial mentality’, has neither fostered critical and scientific thinking, nor enabled Africans to apply their knowledge for development. Mental emancipation would enable Africans to develop self-confidence, and the critical examination of superstitious beliefs that have hindered Africa’s development. I show that Azikiwe’s ideas have been recaptured by African philosophers like Bodunrin and Wiredu, regarding their critique of aspects of African tradition and prescription for how African philosophy can contribute to development.

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A People between Languages

Toward a Jewish History of Concepts

Guy Miron

The field of modern European Jewish history, as I hope to show, can be of great interest to those who deal with conceptual history in other contexts, just as much as the conceptual historical project may enrich the study of Jewish history. This article illuminates the transformation of the Jewish languages in Eastern Europe-Hebrew and Yiddish-from their complex place in traditional Jewish society to the modern and secular Jewish experience. It presents a few concrete examples for this process during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The article then deals with the adaptation of Central and Western European languages within the internal Jewish discourse in these parts of Europe and presents examples from Germany, France, and Hungary.

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Freedom Papers Hidden in His Shoe

Navigating Emancipation across Imperial Boundaries

Sue Peabody

A microhistorical inquiry into the life of Furcy, a man held in slavery in the French Indian Ocean colony of Île Bourbon (today Réunion), sheds light on shifting French policies and practices regarding race and slavery from the Old Regime to the general emancipation of 1848. The mobility of two enslaved domestic servants, Furcy and his mother Madeleine, who traveled between Bengal, Île Bourbon, Mauritius, and continental France, challenged French and British understandings of who could be legitimately held as slaves. Furcy's tenacious battle to win recognition of his freedom in multiple jurisdictions is a forgotten precursor to many international disputes over the juridical principle of Free Soil in the age of Emancipation.

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Pierre H. Boulle

Sue Peabody, “There Are No Slaves in France”: The Political Culture of Race and Slavery in the Ancien Régime (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996).

Laurent Dubois, Les Esclaves de la République. L’histoire oubliée de la première émancipation, 1789-1794, transl. by Jean-François Chaix (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 2000).

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Stefan Bird-Pollan, David Detmer and Elizabeth Butterfield

The Lived Experience of Existence: Fanon between Theory and Meta-Theory Review by Stefan Bird-Pollan

Farhang Erfhani, Aesthetics of Autonomy: Ricoeur and Sartre on Emancipation, Authenticity, and Selfhood Review by David Detmer

Jennifer Ang Mei Sze, Sartre and the Moral Limits of War and Terrorism Review by Elizabeth Butterfield